We have recently introduced state legislation, House Bill 1057, that would create a workgroup to study the way we deliver recreation opportunities to our residents. There are those who believe that what we are doing is “good enough” and that our residents don’t deserve better, but we strongly disagree. Anytime you suggest changing the way something is done, there is always pushback. So, it comes as no surprise that since the introduction of this bill, there are those who have spread misinformation regarding the purpose of the bill, claiming that it would somehow dismantle existing services and threaten programs that people enjoy every day. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Prince Georgians deserve access to all of the wonderful recreation opportunities our County has to offer, and they deserve a greater voice in choosing what new activities we bring to life. We believe a new structure, focused solely on these recreation services, will allow us to offer an increased array of services that our residents want and deserve.
This process will not impact our dedicated recreation employees who go above and beyond to serve our residents. No recreation employee will lose their job, their healthcare, or their pension. The changes we’re exploring have to do with the structure of the entity that administers recreation services and will not, in any way, negatively impact employees. In fact, Gino Renne, President of UFCW 1994, the union who represents the employees, supports the bill.
This legislation will allow us to have more local control over our Recreation Department and how services are delivered. Having an organization whose sole purpose is the provision of recreation services and programming will allow us to focus on youth sports, senior services, the arts and so much more, without it being a part of M-NCPPC that is also focused on worthy, yet other significant objectives.
While we appreciate the work that our Recreation Department is doing, we know that, based on feedback from residents, there are areas where we can do better. One of these areas is youth sports and outreach. I learned this first-hand from my own personal experience with my daughter, Alex. When she used to play lacrosse, we had to travel all over the region for games, because there were few opportunities to play in the County. And this isn’t just the case for lacrosse; for many sports, youth sports leagues end up playing “home games” at fields in other jurisdictions.
I want to assure residents that this is not a rushed process as some have claimed. This legislation is not simply authorizing the eventual establishment of a Recreation Authority, it is creating a workgroup to help us study how to take the Recreation Department and create an entity that is solely dedicated to providing recreation opportunities for our residents. It is only given an “emergency legislation” designation so it can become law as soon as it passes, giving the workgroup more time to work.
Members of the workgroup will include a recreation expert, the Youth and Countywide Sports Division Chief who is a M-NCPPC employee, and a representative from the union who represents M-NCPPC workers. The workgroup will work over the summer to make recommendations on how this new organization will operate and be funded, and what services will be included under its authority.
Those recommendations will be due back to our County Delegation by December 1, 2022, allowing time to draft legislation to formally establish this new entity. This will give us time to make sure the changes to our recreation services are well-planned, well-coordinated and ultimately enhances service delivery. The workgroup will be required to hold public hearings to receive feedback directly from residents.
Further, because these recommendations would ultimately have to come before the General Assembly and be supported by the County Council and County Executive to be enacted, there will be additional layers of hearings and public input before any plan becomes final.
This legislation is not about tearing anything down, reducing services or doing something in the dark of night without public input; it is about ensuring that we can deliver the best recreation services in the best way for our residents.
For those who want to learn more, I encourage you to visit princegeorgesplan.com to read more about the history of this issue, hear directly from residents who support our efforts, and even join with the many residents and organizations who have signed on in support.